In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the artist's birth, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Delacroix: The Late Work, an exhibition exploring the final years of the great French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). Some 70 paintings and 40 works on paper by one of the most important artists of the 19th century, lent by museums and private collections throughout Europe and the Americas, will be arranged by theme in six categories---animals, allegory and mythology, flowers and landscapes, literary illustrations, scenes of North Africa, and religion---that reveal the artist's immense achievement during the last 15 years of his life. Delacroix: The Late Work will be on view at the Museum from September 15, 1998, to January 3, 1999. The exhibition has been organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in conjunction with the Réunion des Musées Nationaux in Paris. The curators of the exhibition are Joseph J. Rishel, Senior Curator of European Painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Arlette Sérullaz, Curator of Drawings at the Musée du Louvre and Director of the Musée Delacroix; and Vincente Pomarède, Chief Curator of Paintings at the Musée du Louvre. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be the exhibition's only venue in North America.
Delacroix: The Late Work will shed new light on this monumental figure in the history of art, whom the renowned French poet Charles Baudelaire described in 1845 as "the most original painter of ancient or modern times." Considered the last "Old Master," Delacroix consciously placed himself in the painterly tradition of Veronese, Titian, Rubens, and Rembrandt, yet he was also the driving force in the French Romantic Movement, a radical new approach to art developed in Paris in the early decades of the 1800s. Delacroix formed the link between the traditions of the past and the modern movements, ultimately having a profound influence upon the Impressionists, particularly Renoir and Cézanne, as well as such 20th-century masters as Picasso and Matisse. Cézanne said that Delacroix had "the greatest palette of France, and no one beneath our skies possessed to a greater extent the vibration of color. We all paint through him."
Delacroix was a remarkably prolific artist, creating in his lifetime over 850 paintings and more than 2000 watercolors and drawings. This exhibition focuses on the works of the mature artist, from the year 1848 to his death in 1863 at the age of 65. These last years of his life were a time of profound reflection for Delacroix, steeped in nostalgia and swept by deep, erotically charged, emotions. Among the great admirers of Delacroix's talent was the American novelist Henry James, who in 1872 remarked that the painter's "imaginative impulse begins where that of most painters ends."
The exhibition will feature a selection of Delacroix's late representations of North Africa, a place where the artist had spent several months in 1832. It was a visit that would have a profound effect on the light, color, and imagery of his painting for the rest of his life. These subjects, reconsidered some 30 years after his actual experience, are a vivid testimony to his love of North Africa and its hold on his imagination. Delacroix will conclude with an exploration of the artist's representations of religious subjects. It is one of the great paradoxes of modern art history that Delacroix, a worldly Parisian who confessed skepticism of any organized religion, should be the greatest religious painter of the 19th century. This exhibition presents a unique opportunity to examine the range and power Delacroix's biblical subjects, such as The Good Samaritan (c. 1850; Waterhouse Collection), which were executed with a deep awareness of similar works by such masters as Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, and Veronese, as well as the sequence of closely related compositions of Christ on the Sea of Galilee that also look forward to Monet's famous series paintings.
Delacroix: The Late Work presents paintings and works on paper that are multi-faceted and introspective, suffused by an increasingly complex and passionate use of color as well as a renewed spiritual intensity. Soon after the artist's death, Théophile Silvestre spoke to these same qualities in the final years of the artist's life: "Delacroix died, almost smiling...a painter of great genius, who had the sun in his head and storms in his heart, who for forty years played the entire keyboard of human emotion, and whose grandiose, terrible, and delicate brushes passed from saints to warriors, from warriors to lovers, from lovers to tigers and from tigers to flowers."
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, 350-page catalogue, with essays on subjects including Delacroix's technique, how the artist was viewed by his contemporaries, and issues of continuity and variation in his work.
Tickets for Delacroix may be purchased at the Museum during regular hours beginning August 11, or by telephone at (215) 235-SHOW. Advance tickets are strongly recommended. A service charge of $2.75 per ticket will be added to telephone orders. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will also host an international symposium on the art of Delacroix on Friday evening, October 9, and all day Saturday, October 10.
Entrance to the Delacroix exhibition on Sundays before 1:00 p.m. will require a full-price, timed ticket, even though general admission to the Museum is free during those hours.
Delacroix: The Late Work has been supported in part by Elf Atochem North America, Inc. Additional support has been provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. US Airways is the airline sponsor. NBC 10 WCAU is the broadcast media sponsor. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are the print media sponsors.